Posts Tagged ‘Duane Allman’

Saturday Singles Nos. 124, 125 & 126

June 1, 2012

Originally posted April 18, 2009

Last week, as I began to look at the records I’ve purchased in April over the years, we got as far as 1989, when I was beginning to pack up after two years of teaching at Minot State University. A year later, in April of 1990, I moved from Minnesota to a Kansas hamlet, where a lady friend waited. I bought no records in April of 1990, and in July of that year, I moved from that small town in Kansas to Columbia, Missouri, to teach once more.

In the spring of 1991, the staff at the student radio station at Stephens College finished cleaning off its shelves. I’d gotten quite a few records in March; my April haul that month was minimal. I brought home some Jake Holmes, some Ides of March, a couple albums by the Sutherland Brothers and the Balkan Rhythm Band’s album The Jazziest Balkan Dance Band Around! I got a Barbra Streisand album at a garage sale and went to one of Columbia’s downtown emporiums to get the new Ryko release – on translucent green vinyl – of Ringo Starr’s first tour in 1989 with his All-Starr Band.

In August of 1991, it was back to Minnesota and to journalism, as I took a job in Eden Prairie, one of the Twin Cities’ southwestern suburbs, and I found an apartment in a northwestern suburb, leaving me with a twenty-mile commute through some of the thickest traffic in the Twin Cities. I liked my job, but I didn’t care for much else that was going on, and – and I find this remarkable – I didn’t buy a record from the end of July 1991, just before I left Columbia, until April of 1992, when I moved to Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis, five blocks from Cheapo’s.

In the first days of that April, a garage sale brought me a local gospel album by the Greater Sabathani Baptist Church Mass Choir, and later that week, on my first visit to Cheapo’s, I picked up Bruce Springsteen’s pair of new releases, Lucky Town and Human Touch. As the month wore on, I found Jesse Winchester, Dobie Gray’s Drift Away and Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s Dancer With Bruised Knees. In retrospect, that month’s purchases seem tentative. By the time April danced around again, I’d added more than a hundred and seven LPs to the stacks. (More likely to the growing collection of crates on the floor of my small apartment, as the big shelves themselves were beginning to be filled.)

Looking at the LP log this morning, I see a pattern I’d never noticed before, one for which I have no explanation. In the early 1990s, I bought lots of records during summer, fall and winter, and then – even living so close to Cheapo’s – my purchases tailed off in spring. The only reason I can think of is that, as a reporter whose work was tied closely to goings-on in the schools, spring was a busier season than the others. But April 1993 found me bringing home only three LPs: one by Billy Ocean, one by Sade and one by James Taylor. In April 1994, it was one album each by the Crystals, Boz Scaggs and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. In April 1995, it was one Eric Clapton album and one by Minnie Riperton. In April 1996, the month when I left journalism and began a two-and-a-half-year period of scuffling, I got LPs by Ringo Starr, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Hurricane Smith.

Cheapo’s moved eight blocks further away. My car died. I used my 1965 Schwinn to get around the neighborhood, and I rode Metro buses to get to my long-term temp jobs downtown. And I began to get real serious about buying records, as music seemed like the only thing at the time that was helping me maintain my equilibrium. Eleven LPs in April of 1997, starting with The Best of Delaney & Bonnie and ending with the O’Jays’ Collectors Items. April of 1998 brought me twenty-five LPs: The first was Muddy Waters’ Rolling Stone collection, the last was Cris Williamson’s Blue Rider, and the most interesting was likely Huey “Piano” Smith & His Clowns: The Imperial Sides 1960-61.

In April 1999, during the last spring I was within biking distance of Cheapo’s, I brought home fifty-seven records. The first was Cold Blood’s Thriller! The last was Jim Horn’s Neon Nights. And the most interesting? Probably Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares, the 1987 LP that followed in the path of the Nonesuch Explorer series, delving – for three more albums on vinyl and CD – into the odd, dissonant and compelling choral music of Bulgaria.

Fifty-seven records in one April. I don’t know if that’s a record for an entire month. I imagine we’ll find out as we go through the log month-by-month. I do know that come the next April, in early 2000, I was no longer in the workforce, I was seven miles further from Cheapo’s (though there were used record stores near where I lived, just none nearly as good), and, having gone online and digital, I was thinking a lot about CDs.

I bought two records in April 2000: the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing (to replace a damaged copy I’d had for years) and an anthology titled Guys With Soul Are The Greatest. In April 2001, I bought a sealed copy of Bruce Springsteen’s Live In New York City. And in 2002, I brought home an anthology of blues artists who recorded for Atlantic Records in the 1950 and 1960s.

By this time, the Texas Gal and I were in the ’burbs, planning our retreat to St. Cloud, and the majority of my record-shopping was done online. In April 2003, I got Eric Burdon Declares “War” and Johnny Jenkins’ marvelous Ton Ton Macoute!, some of which is laid on instrumental tracks that were intended for a Duane Allman solo album. By the time we got to St. Cloud, even online purchases were infrequent, and most of my vinyl hunting came at the occasional garage sale. April 2004 brought me two Steve Forbert LPs at a garage sale, and April 2007 brought me Shawn Phillips’ Collaboration (such a quiet album that I’ve never found a worthwhile vinyl copy although I’ve purchased maybe ten of them) and Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley P.T.A. And last April, in a store I’d not seen before, tucked into a strip mall behind Red Lobster, I found R.B. Greaves and Very Extremely Dangerous by Muscle Shoals guitar stalwart Eddie Hinton.

Given such a mishmash of possibilities, I’ve decided to share three songs this morning. So, from vinyl ranging from near-pristine to well-used, here are your Saturday Singles:

“Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” by R.B. Greaves from R.B. Greaves [1969]

“Karlov’s Gankino” by the Balkan Rhythm Band from The Jazziest Balkan Dance Band Around! [1983]

“Down Along The Cove” by Johnny Jenkins (with Duane Allman et al.) from Ton Ton Macoute! [1970]

Saturday Single No. 91

August 15, 2011

Originally posted September 20, 2008

It’s quiet here this morning. The Texas Gal is sleeping in – a just reward for about nine weeks of long Saturdays of effort – and two of the catboys are evidently keeping her company. (The third, young Henri, is at the vet’s for routine kitten surgery and will come home this afternoon.) The sun is beginning to peek through gaps in the canopy of oak leaves and evergreen branches that shelter the house.

Only the rumble of a passing train intrudes, but not all that much. The clatter of the wheels and cars is not too noisy, and the only other thing I notice is that the coffee in the mug on my desk trembles a little as the train rumbles along the tracks on the other side of Lincoln Avenue. That’s all.

It puts me in mind of another cup of coffee, another table, another city:

In September 1990, I was in my first month teaching journalism and writing at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, midway between Kansas City and St. Louis. And that autumn, earthquakes were on everyone’s mind. Beneath the soil where the states of Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky come together runs the New Madrid fault, named for a small Missouri town that lies atop it. The fault has a place in American history. In 1811 and 1812, when the area was sparsely populated, a series of earthquakes took place along the fault. Wikipedia says:

“The 1811 or 1812 New Madrid Earthquake . . . is one of the largest succession[s] of earthquakes, including the most intensive ever indirectly inferred (not recorded) in the contiguous United States, beginning with an initial pair of very large earthquakes on December 16th, 1811[,] plus aftershocks and other large related quakes separated by a succession of smaller aftershock quakes[,] with the largest event classified as a Mega-quake of greater than 8.0 on the Richter scale occurring on February 7, 1812.”

There are any number of fascinating books about the 1811-12 New Madrid quakes. I’ve read a few, including some with analyses that place the major quake a little lower on the Richter scale, but whatever its magnitude, the quake was huge. And the scary thing is that the fault has not triggered a major quake since then; basically, say scientists, a major quake is certain though no one, of course, knows when.

In the September 11, 2005, edition of the Commercial Appeal, a newspaper published in Memphis, Tennessee, Oliver Staley writes: “Experts predict there’s about a 10 percent chance of a massive earthquake in the next 50 years and a much greater chance of a smaller, yet still quite serious quake much sooner.”

I found that quotation at a fascinating website about the New Madrid fault. I also found there a reference to the event I recalled this morning. During that autumn of 1990, when I was living in Columbia, a climatologist by the name of Iben Browning, based in New Mexico, announced that there was a fifty percent chance of an earthquake along the New Madrid fault that December. His prediction was based on the theory of high tidal forces causing increased pressure on the fault. Needless to say, there was no major quake that December, and the many news folks who descended on New Madrid early that month went away quakeless but alive.

Earlier that autumn (and I do not recall if this was before or after Browning made his prediction), I was eating lunch at my dining room table in Columbia. My feet suddenly felt odd, as if they were vibrating, and I happened to glance at my coffee cup: the liquid was moving inside the cup. So I looked at the clock and noted the time, and that evening, the newscaster on one of the local stations reported that there’d been a minor tremor on the New Madrid fault that afternoon.

It had happened right at the moment my feet felt funny and my coffee was rippling. I was reminded of that this morning, and – as is my wont – went looking for a song with at least some connection. And that’s why – with no intention of making light of a situation that will someday almost certainly be disastrous – “Shake For Me” by John Hammond with Duane Allman on slide guitar, is this week’s Saturday Single.

John Hammond – “Shake For Me” [1970]

‘If I Never Get Well No More . . .’

May 11, 2011

Originally posted September 25, 2007

One of the most durable of blues songs is the tune “Going Down Slow,” sometimes called “Goin’ Down Slow.”

With more than 300 recordings of it in print – according to All-Music Guide – it’s one of those songs that allow one to pick and choose, finding just the right version for the right moment. And it’s a baffling song, in one way: Lots of people seem to have written it.

It’s familiar:

“I have had my fun, if I never get well no more.
“I have had my fun, if I never get well no more.
“All my health is failin’ on me, oh yes, I’m goin’ down slow.

”Please, write my mama, tell her the shape I’m in.
“Please, write my old mother, tell her the shape I’m in.
“Tell her to pray for me, forgive me for my sin.”

At any rate, according to at least one website, that’s the lyric as sung by Howlin’ Wolf, who released it as Chess single 1813 in 1962, with some spoken portions added by Willie Dixon. When it was released, the writing credit was given to James Burton. At the AMG website, numerous other writers are credited with creating the sturdy song. They include Champion Jack Dupree, Jimmy Witherspoon, Mance Lipscomb, James Booker, Brownie McGhee, Lightning Hopkins and more.

Odds are, however, that the track was written by a bluesman named James Burke Oden (1903-1977), also known as St. Louis Jimmy. He recorded “Going Down Slow” in Chicago on Nov. 11 in 1941. The song was released as Bluebird 8889 and credited to St. Louis Jimmy, according to the Online Discographical Project, which offers a wealth of information about 78 rpm releases.

I’ve never heard Oden’s version of the song. The earliest recorded version of it that I have is probably one by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, although it’s hard to tell. My sense is that the track I have is one of the recordings the duo did for Folkways records in the 1940s and 1950s, but I have yet to find a listing for the duo that has them recording the song with the running time of 3:05. I suppose it could be someone else doing the lead vocal, but it sounds like McGhee, and the harp (and whoops) are almost certainly the work of Sonny Terry.

Excluding that version, the Wolf’s version from 1962 is the earliest I have, and I also have a version he did during his London sessions in 1970. Long John Baldry recorded the song for his Long John’s Blues album in 1964 and re-recorded it in 1971 or so during the sessions for It Ain’t Easy. In 1967, Canned Heat put the song on its self-titled debut album, and the same year, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley did a raucous version of the tune on their messy Super Super Blues Band album.

I also have a version of the song that Muddy Waters recorded in 1971, likely at the Chicago nightspot called Mr. Kelly’s. And the most recent version of the song I have is the one that Eric Clapton released in 1998 on his album Pilgrim.

But the best version I’ve got in the collection – and the best version I’ve ever heard – comes from a surprising direction, at least vocally. It’s the lengthy version cut in February of 1969 at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals by Duane Allman, during sessions for a solo album that never came to pass.

Allman acquits himself fairly well as a vocalist, even though Tony Rice noted in the liner notes to Duane Allman: An Anthology that Duane once told him, “The cats in my band insist that I cannot sing a note . . . My voice is a scapegoat.” But it’s with his guitar, of course, that Allman makes the veteran song his own. With Berry Oakley on bass, Muscle Shoals stalwart Johnny Sandlin on drums and Paul Hornsby on piano, it’s a cover version of an oft-recorded song that is a delight to the ears.

Duane Allman – “Goin’ Down Slow” [1969]

In The Kitchen Before The Meal

April 23, 2011

Originally posted June 27, 2007

I got a package in the mail the other day. Actually, I got two – one was from my CD club: the re-mastered (and expanded with outtakes and single edits) version of Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, the latest salvo in my campaign to replicate on CD as much of my classic rock record collection as I can afford. I’ve done well with that project over the last few years, despite getting sidetracked now and then by the lure of anthologies of blues, gospel and R&B from the years prior to my birth.

The other package was just as interesting: An LP sent by my friend Mitch in Alabama titled Duane & Greg Allman. (Yes, Gregg’s name was misspelled). On the Bold label, catalog number 33-301.

According to All-Music Guide, the record was released in 1972, although some sources say 1973. The material, though, was clearly recorded prior to the formation of the Allman Brothers Band in 1969, making the record an attempt by the Bold label to cash in on the fame of the Allmans. Well, that’s business, I guess. But beyond being a commercially crass (and classically American) move on the part of Bold, the record is also an interesting artifact, a look at the Allmans’ sound as it was developing, a sample of the banquet while it was cooking, one might say.

So I did some digging. According to a biography at CD Now of Scott Boyer, one of the early associates of the Allman brothers, the music on the LP came from sessions by a group called the 31st of February, which also included David Brown and future Allman drummer Butch Trucks. CD Now says that the sessions were sent as demos to Vanguard Records but were rejected before being released on Bold in 1971 as Duane and Gregg Allman, The Early Years.

Well, it doesn’t say “The Early Years” on the LP I got, and the year is off, but I have a sense that it’s the same recordings. And that seems to be the case, based on information from a Duane Allman chronology I consult from time to time. The site says that the Bold record, which it dates to 1972, is in fact the demo recordings of the 31st of February from 1968. The site also says that Duane and Gregg were studio musicians on the sessions rather than members of the group, which CD Now seems to indicate.

So, having figured out – for the most part – what I had, I dropped it on the turntable and gave it a listen. Side One is pretty clean for a thirty-six year old record, while Side Two has some surface noise. But still, I thought, not too bad. I decided to go ahead and rip it for today, noise and all.

Here’s the track listing:
Morning Dew
God Rest His Soul
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out
Come Down And Get Me
I’ll Change For You
Back Down Home
Well I Know Too Well
In The Morning When I’m Real

Probably the most intriguing cut on the record is the early version of “Melissa,” which was eventually released on 1971’s Eat A Peach album. The form of the later version is there, hiding in the shadows, waiting for Gregg to put a little more grit into it.

Other than that, nothing from the album is truly captivating. There are some nice moments, though. (According to a note at the Duane Allman discography, Duane plays on eight of the nine tracks, missing only “God Rest His Soul.”) “Morning Dew” has hints of the sound the brothers would discover with their own band in a year or so, as does “I’ll Change For You,” which to my ears carries a foreshadowing of the yet unrecorded “Dreams.” In the album’s penultimate track, “Well I Know Too Well,” I thought I heard echoes of the southern gospel that informed a fair amount of the two brothers’ musical legacy.

The rest of the tracks are pleasant but inconsequential, with the strange exception of the album’s closer, “In The Morning When I’m Real.” Obviously cut without Gregg contributing vocals, the track sounds like a bit of California pop, a tuneful and tasty bit of fluff oddly out of place next to the other eight tracks. (The surface noise increases during the track, which doesn’t help, either. I decided not to do any noise removal because I’ve found that doing that only serves to make a track as light as “In The Morning When I’m Real” sound tinny and pinched.)

Unlike most of the music I share here, I don’t think this is anything that will bear up to repeated listening. Some of it may, but not the entire album, I am certain. Nevertheless, I think this is one of those cases when the historic value of the music can be worthwhile. After all, it can be fun to see what went on in the kitchen before the meal was served.

Duane & Greg Allman [1972]